At its meeting on 5 October, a large
majority of MEPs concluded that the way the new EU Health Emergency
preparedness and Response Authority (HERA) functions needed to be better
aligned with European rules on cross-border health threats. This is not
surprising, given that many MEPs are disappointed with the European
Commission's proposal on HERA dated 14 September.
Others call the shots at HERA
The new mandate is a response to the
European Commission's decision not to establish HERA as an independent crisis
authority as announced, but to form only an administrative unit under the
umbrella of the Directorate-General for Health (see also News
September 2021). This decision came as a surprise to many. That too, on the
legal basis of Article 122(1) Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union
(TFEU), which gives the crucial decision-making power to the European Council.
The European Parliament has no rights of co-determination - except indirectly
in the release of funds from the relevant funding programmes.
Closing the democratic deficit
Quite a number of MEPs had raised concerns
about the set-up and operation of HERA in recent weeks. Therefore, the ENVI
Committee had updated its negotiating mandate on the "serious cross-border
health threats" dossier by introducing additional targeted amendments. In
the European parliamentary debate, Dr Peter Liese (EPP) explicitly emphasised
that at least his group did not want to live permanently with the democratic
deficit that had arisen with the present proposal. However, they are generally
in favour of HERA. HERA was also needed to systematically promote cooperation
between private companies and public institutions, in particular. The
biotechnology company, Biontech from Mainz is a good example of this.
Among other things, the European Parliament
is now calling for transparency on all public investment in research,
development, manufacture, production, procurement, stockpiling, supply and
distribution of medical countermeasures. In the case of joint procurements, the
European Commission must make the contracts and agreements publicly available
in good time.
Involving the European Parliament
In addition, there will be close
cooperation between the HERA Board, the Health Security Committee (HSC), the
European Council's crisis mechanism and all relevant EU agencies and bodies.
Duplication of work must be avoided and coherent decision-making at EU level
must be ensured. A representative of the EP should also be seated at the table.
Developing the authority
HERA's work will be thoroughly reviewed by
2023; thereafter, every two years. The review should also be carried out with a
view to upgrading HERA to an independent agency after all. A new legislative
proposal could then be considered to take full account of the important role
played by the European Parliament.
The amended text was adopted by 479 votes in favour, 71 against
and 15 abstentions. Negotiations can now be resumed with the aim of reaching an